December 23, 2009

christmas at work

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 Posted by Ryan , No comments
This year was the third annual Christmas Sweater day at work.

Why christmas sweaters? Well I say why not. The first year Ian and I decided we should wear Christmas sweaters that year. We put it on our Outlook calendars and when December rolled around e-mailed a few other people at work inviting them to join the festivities. Last year saw an even bigger turn out, and this past Friday was our biggest success. Part of the success was due to us pressuring people to wear the extra shirts, sweaters and christmas ties that we just happen to have in the office.

My outfit this year included my $1 sequin Christmas Kitty t-shirt from the thrift store up the street from my house.

Ian created his christmas masterpiece from a deconstructed santa slipper, american flag and (not visible) a toy gun in santa's other hand - all on camo.

Dinner Chairs

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , No comments
Two weeks ago we had a Christmas dinner for some donors at the theatre. They bought the dinner at the auction during the opening Gala. The theme was Victorian Christmas, but all that really meant was that the house the dinner was hosted in is old, and decorated for Christmas. Oh, and that I had to wear a Victorian maid's dress to serve the dinner. I mean, the dresses haven't been used since My Fair Lady almost 5 years ago, and why not.

dining chair BEFORE

Of course there wasn't enough to do already, so I decided to re-cover the dining room chairs before the guests arrived. I know I should have given myself more time, but I was overly optimistic. Recovering a dining chair isn't hard, but for some reason it isn't fast. First you have to remove the seat from the chair. Holding a chair upside down while supporting the seat, and removing the screws is just awkward. Last time i recovered my dining chairs (the afternoon before a family Thanksgiving dinner) I learned that it isn't a good idea to remove all the seats and then try to match the seat with each chair. They're old, the screw holes, don't all match up the same. This time I also knew I might not get them all done in time and nothing is worse than having a major donor walk in on a room of disassembled furniture.

I started by cutting the fabric for the first chair, and then using that as a template to cut the fabric for the other chairs. Then, I stapled the fabric to the first chair and reattached the seat. Luckily it looked great. The repeat on the fabric even ended up in the center of the seat - totally by accident. I removed the seat from the second chair and started attaching the fabric, and then ran out of staples. It's okay, I brought a box of extra staples. Oh, but they don't fit. Apparently the new shiny Craftsman staple gun takes different staples than my old silver Swingline. I tried not to panic as I drove home (six blocks - so ridiculous) to get more staples, different staple gun? I didn't know what I was going to do, but I had a half recovered chair and three more to go and the guests were due to arrive in 45 minutes. When I got home I realized I didn't have any other boxes of staples, I didn't know where the other staple gun was and even my crazy idea of using the staples still in the pocket of my cargo pants (from last summer when we did the roof) didn't work because they didn't fit either. This let to my last ditch idea of using the hammer stapler, you know, the one we used on the roof, last summer, to staple the tar paper down? That one. So I drive back to Michael's (the host of the dinner) and proceed to use a roofing stapler to recover two more chairs before I ran out of time.

The lights were dimmed, I'm sure people didn't even notice that two of the chairs had the old fabric and the other three the new. The good news is that Michael loved the new fabric and I promised to come back and finish the other chairs. And I just found my silver staple gun so I can use that box of extra staples to finish the job.

dining chair AFTER

The dinner was a success, they loved the food and hopefully we can sell the next dinner for even more money. Come on people, a personal chef, waitstaff, and we did the dishes. Next project - break into Michael's house and fix his dishwasher.

December 9, 2009

November 25, 2009

Daily Chores (FAIL)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , No comments
My experiment in daily chores failed - miserably. Some of the things on my list NEVER got done. I never cleaned the sink, I never cleaned the bathtub or bathroom sink. I never mopped or washed clothes (do towels count?). I guess this plan just doesn't work for me. New plan: this month I will attempt to do the same tasks, but on the weekends. I know the theory is to do a little every day, but I just can't do that. And then on Sat/Sun when I do have a little time, I only think about the 1 "little" think I'm supposed to do. I'm not saying this will work either, but it's worth a try. During the week I will try to mitgate the clutter problem by putting things away (where is away though?) and maybe keeping up with the dishes. When we eventually get a dishwasher installed, I might just do a little dance of excitement in the kitchen during the first load of dishes.

Things I did to this week:
I did finish the installation of the new porch light. It was only about 90 minutes more of work, and probably 20 min of fruitless wrangling before I caved in and got the ladder from the garage to make the final connection of the mounting plate to the ceiling bracket. 17" pendant lights are kind of heavy and my one arm can not hold it above chest height for very long.

I cleaned off one bookshelf in the living room. The two bookshelves flanking the fireplace have been a dumping ground of papers and magazines and action figures and cabinet hardware for the last two years. I took every off, organized some magazines in cardboard holders. I figured if I waited until I got around to covering the magazine holders in nice paper or fabric it would never get done. They don't look bad the way the are, although the big dissapointment is the depth of the shelves doesn't allow me to put the magazines behind the doors - so they're on the top shelf right now. I plan on having the other side done before christmas and maybe I'll even get the doors back on! Lars, I expect you to be impressed when you see them 'cause your dissapointment was a motivating factor.

I went to Miller's Hardware and spent 22 cents to buy a screw. Somehow I lost one when I was mounting the drapes in the dining room so for over a year three windows have had drapery panels, one was blank. Except for the sad brackets (one with only 1 screw).

November 20, 2009

Garlic planting

Friday, November 20, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , , No comments
This spring when we were shopping for annual vegetable seeds I grabbed a head of garlic that was by the register. I thought I'd give it a go. Apparently around here garlic really needs to be planted in the fall (like right now) to get a head start on the growing season. That head of garlic I grabbed in the spring was planted, but wasn't doing very well when it was accidentally tilled this summer. After my experiment with this Sunset vegetable garden plan (it looked like a good idea) we're going back to raised beds in the garden. In fact they are the same raised beds I built 4 years ago. I went back to the old house and disasembled them this summer. They look so big in this backyard. I'll probably need to make new ones in a few years as these are already starting to rot out (they were made from 20+ year-old fence panels). This year we're also going to start the garlic in the fall. I don't know the exact varieties. The bulbs are purple, there are two different kinds, and they are a hardneck variety. That means we'll get the garlic scapes in the spring and I can make more of that pesto. Remember, I'm still excited that anything will grow for me.

UPDATE: I started this post a month ago, planning on getting some pictures when I planted the garlic. Well it's in, no pictures, and I still haven't found mulch for the bed which means they've probably already frozen and died. We've had several severe freezes and a few light snows. It might snow more this weekend too.

I started installing the new porch light but now it's been 2 weeks and I'm not done yet. Of course that means we've gone 2 weeks with NO porch light - and i'm one of those people who leave them on all night. For me, dark houses make an unfriendly neighborhood and that can lead to an unsafe neighborhood. I guess it's time to stop procrastinating and take that trip through the knee wall in the attic (I have to install a new junction box in the porch ceiling). I took some pictures of the porch project so maybe I'll finish and get those up this weekend.

October 27, 2009

Shopping for me

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 Posted by Ryan , 1 comment
I've been thinking about buying something for myself like a new pair of shoes, or a new dress but I just can't decide. What about a new porch light instead! And it's on sale.

October 26, 2009

Cleaning up

Monday, October 26, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , No comments
It is getting dark so soon already, and I'm not ready for it. We had the first hard freeze really early this year too, so it already feels like the beginning of winter. I feel like everything is in shambles and I let it get that way. I've been using my down time to do absolutely nothing. Not even laundry, or putting away the last two load of clothes from the last time I did do laundry. That might have been almost a month ago. I don't know how the time passed so quickly. Really, I do know what happened. It's what happens every year. I'm not home but a few nights a week and when I am home I relish eating real food cooked in the oven or in the stove. I do not feel like cleaning, or even picking up my clutter, doing a load of laundry or breaking down those cardboard boxes that multiply in my dining room.

I really have to get something done though. That is why I need to start the chore-a-day list again. I had one of these when I was a kid and the chores alternated between my sister and me. Funny how those same chores that your mother made you do are equally important in your own home 20 years later.

Sunday: Laundry
Monday: Clean Bathroom
Tuesday: Clean off Dining Table
Wednesday: Clean stove top & sink
Thursday: Water house plants
Friday: Sweep/Vaccum House
Saturday: Sweep/Mop Kitchen & Bathroom

I know it might be a little pathetic to see that I can't even do these chores on a semi-regular basis. And these all have to be things that take only about 20 minutes, because often I don't have much more time that that to tackle something. A lot of days the only time to get this done would be in the ~45 minutes I have between getting home from work and leaving for the theatre and I also need to take the dog for a walk and eat something in that time.

If I could keep this up for a month I would consider myself a success. If I get half of this stuff done two times in a month, I'm still pretty impressed. I had to try kind of hard to come up with 7 different little tasks and maybe things like watering the plants, cleaning the clutter off the dining table and scrubbing the stove top are laughably easy but in my house are rarely done.

Is it a sign of organization, or weakness that I'm putting these as reminders on my Outlook calendar so I remember? One month until status report.

October 2, 2009

Colour Trend

Friday, October 02, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , 2 comments

It's official, the newest trendy paint color is Down Pipe (farrow & ball). It is the new go-to color for designer rooms, has been used in at least two museums for gallery space, and I like it. I know the official color of the year (according to Pantone) is Mimosa but who wants a room painted that color.

Maybe an accent piece. A chair. A lamp. A dresser. In fact it would be a great accent piece in a room painted with down pipe.

All these fancy colors though just make it harder for me to pick one and paint my rooms.

October 1, 2009

Chaos and clutter

Thursday, October 01, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , No comments
All all the "shelter" magazines are going bust and more people are turning to blogs for ideas and inspiration, it was only a matter of time I guess before an online shelter magazine appeared. Premiering today (OCT 1) Lonny is an all online magazine. Like a magazine it still has advertising and a page based layout. It won't be the same as curling up on the couch or taking a bath while reading the newest issue but I'll take it where I can get it these days. I haven't read the whole thing, in fact I've just barely gotten past the first few pages, but already I hope it sticks around. Maybe it won't be great, but maybe it needs time to find its footing.

I'm going to save the rest of the magazine until I get home and have time (saturday maybe?) to read it full screen on the television. Big!

Speaking of computers and televisions, I had grand plans, I should have been done with building the new media center by now. But alas the old compaq case was to small to fit the motherboard. Did you know that some of the "media center" cases are hundreds of dollars! Ridiculous. My plan is to find a thrift store chase that is the right size and hopefully pay very little for it. The only usable thing from the compaq machine is the case fan which will go into the now 2-year-old "regular" computer. Since I already took everything out of the compaq case, do you think the electronic recyclers would be okay with all the components in a plastic bag then secured back in the case. It just seems silly to screw everything back in. Sadly I've given myself the expansive goal of three weeks to find a new media center case (that's when my copy of Windows 7 should arrive - pre-ordered for almost 60% off) and it would just be a waste to have hundreds of dollars of computing power sitting un-assembled in the living room for want of a metal box to contain it all.

Although it is now fall, officially and weather-wise, and the theatre season has started - I have plans. I don't know what I'll get done, but I have plans. I have plans to clean out the back bedroom; plans to paint the living room, dining room, bedroom (well I guess the whole inside of the house); plans to re-arrange the vegetable garden and plant garlic before the snows come; plans to do some knitting again; plans to do something to my office space (at work, not home). I think that's plenty of plans. I like to plan. I like to think of all the possibilities and put it all together. I like to pick colors and arrange furniture and organize a space. But you wouldn't know it to look at my house. It's cluttered and plain and nothing hangs on the walls. Books are still in boxes and things don't have a home and I live with a person who's idea of cleaning up is to stash everything in a box and toss it in the back bedroom. What will it take for me to change things?

September 4, 2009

And then there were two

Friday, September 04, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , , , , 1 comment
On Tuesday morning I took the dog out for a walk before work and I noticed a shallow hole in my front yard. It looked like a dog had been digging in the yard (or an army of squirrels). When I looked down I saw a lot of dirt on the sidewalk and it was the good dirt, the birthday present dirt* so I kind of scraped it back to the yard best I could with my flip-flop, then continued with our morning walk.

When Yoshi and I round the block from the other direction I happened to look at the yard again and noticed that one of my plants was GONE! That hole, that's where the plant was. I had three 'Autumn Joy' Sedums in the front about 8" apart in a triangle and now, there are just two of them. First, "who steals plants from people's yards?" Really, who just pulls an entire plant up? They aren't little anymore either, about 8" across and a foot tall. Then, "Who steals 'Autumn Joy' Sedum?" It's a great plant for zone 5 (where we live) and probably a lot of other places too. It's easy to grow, easy to maintain, looks cool in the winter, and easy to propagate. Just take a shovel to the plant every few years for a whole new plant. Ask anyone with an established clump and they could give you some without disturbing their landscape. So, people give this plant away, but someone stole one from my yard.

There isn't much I can do about the thievery. Nothing else had gone missing, and I can easily replace the missing clump by dividing one of my remaining ones. But it's the principle. It's things like this that make you want to put a fence up around the front yard.

*2 years ago my parents gave my a truck load of dirt for my front yard to amend the dead soil under the compacted lawn.

September 3, 2009

What to wear?

Thursday, September 03, 2009 Posted by Ryan , 1 comment
A few mornings a week I go to the gym before work and "run" (really I use one of those machines that are like an eliptical but have things you hold onto and move your arms in opposition. I don't know what it's called, and frankly, for the first six months I went there I was terrified that I would injure myself on it.) This morning after my 24 minutes on the cardio machine I went back to the locker room to shower and change and discovered that I forgot to I've forgotten things before, mainly undergarments which, as gross as it is to put the sweaty bra back on after a shower, is still hidden from the general public. But with no shoes, leaves me only several options. It wasn't even like I had brought pants to wear today either where I could hide my gym shoes, sort of, but today I brought a black skirt and black/grey striped top. Just so you know, my gym shoes are white and turquoise.

I still had to shower, so I gathered up my towel and shampoo and went to shower while thinking of my options:

1) Wear my gym shoes anyway. It looks a little like the women downtown that wear suits and jogging shoes between the bus and the office, but I could carry it off.

2) Wear no shoes. I go barefoot a lot. Inside the house, around the yard, the whole time I was in college, but barefoot at work is a little iffy.

3) Go buy new shoes. The problem is that Liberty Lake is a small suburban town and that means it has two grocery stores and a Walgreen. But the Valley mall is only a few miles back on the freeway...

I finished my shower and went back to get dressed and remembered, "it's only 8am, the mall isn't open at 8am." So if I want shoes that don't say Adidas on the back Wallgreens is my only option. I even tried to think if I had any spare shoes in the car: I have my winter boots in the trunk, a pair of t-strap character shoes, and my costume boots for Pirates. I used to have a pair of ballet flats in the trunk for a long time, until I decided to take them out and wear them one day.

I finished dressing and slipped my gym shoes back on to go to the car. As I walked out I thought, "this isn't too bad, I mean they're comfortable." I drove the to Walgreens though figuring I should give it a shot. Well if you're in need of a bra, gym clothes, a fleece vest, nylons, or slippers - head on out to Walgreen. However if all you're looking for is a pair of beach thongs - you are out of luck.

Right now I'm sitting at my desk with my gym shoes slipped off and I've been padding around in my green ankle socks. Kind of a compromise between barefoot and bulky gym shoes. Maybe I should keep a back up pair of flip-flops in the trunk just in case.

August 25, 2009


Tuesday, August 25, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , No comments
We are starting to harvest the tomatoes and zucchini and even a few peppers from the garden already. Earlier this summer the one raspberry cane that survived transplanting and our heavy snow load produced a surprising number of berries and the new canes are already over 7 ft tall. I definitely need to build something to contain them for next summer and maybe prune the excess cane height to a more manageable 6ft. The thornless black berry, which looked so sad last summer, actually survived also and even has some berries coming to maturity right now. I'm glad the blackberry season is 6 weeks after the raspberry season. It makes it more manageable to harvest, eat and store the berries.

I've done little work in the garden during the summer except water and watch the yellow pear tomato plant grow to monstrous proportions. In fact my experiment of staking and tying the tomatoes(instead of using cages) this year - failed. Once the plants started setting fruit the heavy plant just pulled the ties down. I'm sure they would have pulled the flimsy wire cages down too, so next year some sort of wood tomato trellis is in order. I'd really like to build this pretty one that I found directions for, but I couldn't afford the cost, or space to build one for each tomato plant. Maybe someday I'll have one, as an accent, but build a more communal trellis system that can accommodate 6 plants at a time.

I've learned some lessons from our guerrilla garden experiment this year.
1) The hand-me-down tomato trellis has some engineering flaws that will help me build a more successful one next year. The first rung was only an inch or two off the ground so the second rung was too high to tie the plant to until it had already started creeping across the ground horizontally. Even now the tomatoes aren't tall enough to reach the third rung but have already started producing and getting heavy and our of control.
2) If we use the space again next year, I definitely have to use some sort of weed barrier/mulch because even after removing all the weeds when the plants were young, new weeds appeared and the vegetables are all much to large to effectively weed around. Some sort of climbing weed is strangling my eggplants.
3) The sun is great in the vacant lot, but it is hard to water evenly (especially without also watering the weeds). A soaker hose is a definite must next year. I just wasn't prepared this year with the proper materials - because I procrastinated - and the poor watermelon and pumpkin plants are paying for it.

My sister was visiting this week and I got to spend some time with her on Saturday (my only day off from work & the theatre). She gave me two of her handmade glass cloches for the garden because they weren't so effective in her patio garden setup. I have to figure out what I'm going to try them out on next spring. Maybe direct seeded basil? I tried to start basil inside this year, but right after our last frost date we had a week of scorching temperatures and the immature basil seedlings just fried in a day. So if I can get them started a little earlier outside, maybe they'll be stronger when the rouge weather hits.

Katie also asked about growing garlic, specifically how you get the garlic scapes. This year was the first time I've tried both onions and garlic - and both failed. I didn't water consistently, some of the onion starts got mouldy before I got around to planting them, and guess what, you are supposed to plant garlic in the fall! Well I know better this year. I did a little reading about growing garlic and found two great resources for our area (one in Hood River, and the other in Canada). First, I found that only the hardneck varieties of garlic produce garlic scapes. Softneck garlic is the kind you normally find in the grocery store. So if you want garlic scapes, plant the hardneck varieties, plus it allows you access to garlic that is harder to find. I don't know about you, but that is one of the main reasons I grow food. oh, and harvest the scapes when they've made 1-2 complete loops (but before the flower opens).

I pledge to be on top of things this fall and next spring so the new raised beds are built, cover crops are planted and garlic sown.

August 24, 2009

Fence Plan

Monday, August 24, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , , , 2 comments

So my big plan for this weekend - besides cleaning up the house - was to get the brackets installed on the posts at the proper heights so that next weekend I could measure and cut all the 2x4s. I went to the store and picked up the brackets that I chose to use then on Sunday went outside to put them up. After measuring and running a string line I realized that the brackets all had to slide over the top of the metal pole AND the brackets were all supposed to go 4 inches below the string. I ran into a problem when I couldn't tighten the bolt in the bracket to secure it to the pole. I tried both a screw driver and pliers (just now I realized I should breakout the socket set and try that) but really that thing wouldn't budge. I could get it to un-screw, but there was no advancing the sucker. I'll go back with the wd-40 and the socket set, but it's just frustrating that something as "simple" as tightening a bolt can seem like an impossible task.

August 3, 2009

Things that happened…and didn’t

Monday, August 03, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , , 2 comments
Car: I was pulled over and received my first ticket (ever) for driving with overdue (very overdue) license tabs. Apparently I never updated our address on the car registration when we moved and so never got a reminder, and apparently never look at the license plate on the back of the car to notice the little MAR sticker. I got the ticket in MAY. They guy who pulled me over was rather nice, I felt stupid and maybe mentioned that I would have remembered if they sent out e-mail reminders.

I was also rear-ended on the freeway in a construction zone. I have seen more than the usual rear-end collisions in this area while the section was resurfaced. It was the usual kind of rear-end accident. Traffic was really slow, stop and go and go faster, go slower, STOP…but the girl behind me didn’t stop fast enough. She was more shaken up than me, but then her car was more of a mess than mine. I called my insurance company, just in case and I talked to her insurance company. I took the car to their recommended appraiser, although there really wasn’t serious damage, and got a quote for the repairs. Approx $745 because they can’t repair bumpers anymore, only replace them and I say “yes, go ahead and order the new bumper” to the place that did the appraisal because it isn’t like I have my own personal body shop. But then two days later I talk to the man from the other insurance company and he says, “we got the estimate, do you want to have the work done there or do you want me to send the check to you?” Oh! I didn’t know that I could just take the money and run. Like I said, the damage to the bumper was cosmetic, and what the hell, the front bumper looks worse from my 2005 winter run in with a trailer hitch in an icy intersection. I took the check, canceled the repair, and continue to drive the car with the damaged front AND rear bumper, with a ever growing crack in the windshield. Classy.

House: We have some new cabinets & a lot more counter top space in the kitchen now. The cabinets are installed, the counter is installed. There is nothing in the cabinets yet (it’s only been 3 weeks and counting) but soon. I still have some puttying and touch up painting to do on the cabinets. I also need to strip and wax the floor in the kitchen to hopefully repair the lovely scratches left from the cabinet installation. That will happen after I finish wiring the new outlet for the microwave and maybe after I run new wiring for a hood fan and countertop appliances so that someday I could install a backsplash. You know, if I wanted it all done in 2 months, I would have paid someone else to do it. But I didn’t and won’t because that shit is easy, it just takes time. Time that sometimes is otherwise occupied by watching a marathon of Burn Notice or Law and Order or something embarrassing on the Family Channel because it is 85 degrees inside my house and 100 outside the house and if I move I will be miserable. I wish it was Fall already.

Yard: The fence (posts) are in. Ok, really, that’s the hardest part (have I said that already) and the rest of the fence should be super easy to finish – 1, 2 days tops. If I could finalize the design, decide which fasteners to use to attach the supports and find a day when another person is there to help me attach 7.5’ 2x4s to the posts. Really, though, it’s almost done. The rest of the yard is doing okay, the front is filling out. I need to get a picture so we can do a before and after since last year in July it was just dirt. The sunflowers are almost blooming outside the bedroom window and the grass in the backyard is so yellow and dry that is disintegrates when I walk on it. Just the way it should. We have been watering the food gardens and the front plantings, but not the grass because then it would need to be mowed and most of it is getting ripped out anyway and I’m lazy and stingy with water. I really do want to have a nice back yard but there’s still no patio (because the fence isn’t done yet) and what was grass (not very nice grass in the first place anyway) is now dusty and crunchy and the summer is now officially over.

Theatre: I say the summer is over because auditions for the Fall season opener are today. And for me, that means the end of the summer. There will still be time to finish the fence (don’t worry) but I no longer think the patio will happen this year. Maybe I could get my gravel path in the front finished though, that would be satisfying. Both Paul and I participated in the endowment fund fundraiser, which showcased all the musicals in the coming season, last month and I sang There’s No Business Like Show Business in a floor length body-hugging sequined evening dress. Somewhere there are pictures. Tonight I will be singing When a Merry Maiden Marries (The Gondoliers) by Gilbert and Sullivan for auditions for the Pirates of Penzance. It seems like the snow will be here anyday (oh, except it's still 92 degrees outside).

June 4, 2009

...and now it's June.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , No comments
I’ve been spending more time outside now that the weather’s nice, although it’s been a little warmer than I prefer. Normal high temp should be 70 degrees, and we’ve been hitting 80-87 in the last week. But all the plants are in the ground for the year. I even planted all my seeds last night after work, some annuals and some perennials. I’m never confident that the seeds will come up, so it’s extra exciting when they do. The purple double coneflowers that I got from Costco this spring had a 20% survival rate. I actually surprised that the one did survive since I’d resigned myself to the complete failure of that planting. I keep thinking I should take pictures of the yard to document it’s progress, but never do. I can say there’s a lot more plants now than there was before and most seem to be doing fine. Remembering to water is important, of course. I’ve buried soaker hoses on both sides of the house and the parking strip, using a sprinkler in the front and hand watering the vegetable patch. I just got a micro irrigation kit from my mom and I’m really excited to set it up in the vegetable garden and the front yard. I’ll still have to attach the hose and set the timer, but I think the quality and coverage will be so much better. Right now I find it hard to water the corners of the yard without completely soaking the sidewalk.

I have a lot of projects I want to work on, and just found a new one today. But I need to prioritize. I started the back yard fence a month (or more) ago and I’m still not done digging all the holes. The hole are the hardest part. I expect installing the posts will only take part of a day and attaching the wood will take a day. Darn posts are taking a lot more time. The most I got done in one day was three holes and I had to quit because I was feeling faint and a little wobbly. It was the heat, not the physical exertion, but I’m still only 50% done. Other planting activities have taken priority because if I didn’t get the food garden started we wouldn’t have gotten anything before the frost comes in the fall with our short growing season. Now that the plants are in though, it’s back to the fence. Except for the projects I still need to complete to get our 50% kitchen remodel done on schedule.

The new cabinets are done and primed, but need to be painted. They’ll be installed the week of the 22nd, so everything has to be ready by then.
  • Paint Cabinets (2 coats paint, 2 coats poly)
  • Install new 20Amp outlet for microwave (we will be able to use the toaster and the microwave at the same time if we want!)
  • Board up doorway to create new broom closet ( I keep forgetting about this task)

April 29, 2009

Money Spent = Money Saved?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , , , , No comments
Although it’s still cold and windy outside this week with unseasonably low temperatures, the warm weather is almost here and that means the end of the heating season. Last fall we replaced our 1987 oil burning furnace with a new 92%+ efficient gas burning furnace. Of course at the time I started collecting bids heating oil as nearing $5 a gallon and I was understandably concerned about the cost to run that oil burner al winter. Then the prices dropped. Well, oil prices fluctuate – or, they do now at least. I gave myself a conservative estimate on the return on the investment or 6 years back in September and well, we’re a little behind on that. The price of heating oil dropped back to $2.29 in February and that put a damper on my speedy ROI.

However, just because we’re not “saving” as much as I planned/hoped doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a good investment. We are saving money. In fact, our heating bill for the ‘08-’09 winter is around 50% of the estimated oil cost. And the price for natural gas is actually supposed to go down for next winter so maybe we’ll make up some of that momentum.

Estimated ’08-’09 cost of heating the house with oil: $896.35

Estimated ’08-‘09 final natural gas bill: $470.43

Dollars saved: $425.92!

April 16, 2009

Save on your taxes! Buy a house!

Thursday, April 16, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , No comments
Everyone told me that my tax burden would be significantly less when I bought a house. I’d be able to deduct everything and pay so much less. It didn’t quite work out that way. Maybe if we already had a bunch of things that were “itemizable” but we are apparently a household with little to deduct and came up a few hundred below the standard deduction. We were still able to deduct a portion of the real estate taxes – that was nice – and since it was all still so simple this year I took advantage of a free online preparation program and free e-file.* Really it’s a good thing that we came up short on the deductions because it means we aren’t paying a lot in interest. I mean it’s a lot, don’t get me wrong, we don’t have one of those swanky 4.8% mortgages that people can get now. But it isn’t the 14% that my parents paid. Maybe the low rates will stick around and we’ll re-finance and get a 15 year, or buy the vacant lot.

*Apparently I wasn’t paying enough attention while completing my tax preparation online because I got an email this morning with the subject “Your Federal Tax Return Hasn’t Been Filed”. What! I finished it I swear, I remember entering in my account number and routing number and “signing” the return with my new PIN, what do you mean to tell me (the day after taxes are due) that I haven’t filed? I logged back onto the web site and figured out there were three more “next” buttons to click to finish filing. Don’t you think they could have sent me an email yesterday? “Make sure and file your taxes since you obviously forgot to click Finish?” Or maybe when I closed the tab a warning popup could have asked “are you sure? You haven’t actually sent the IRS anything yet.” I know it was my fault, but it still sucks. And I’ll have to pay a fine of something between $1-$28 and if I don’t pay in a timely manner the IRS will demand 20% interest. Yay.

April 7, 2009

Cook & Clean

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , No comments
Not so much cleaning as yard work (gardening?). I made a simple lamb stew, with very little effort this week. Before we went on the weekend hardware store trip (1pm) I threw 2 small packages of lamb stew meat (neck bones) into the crock pot with a bay leaf and covered 2/3 with water. I turned it to low and we left. This weekend was the first nice weather we've had so far this year so I felt both obligated and determined to get stuff done outside. If a fit of laziness I got nothing done on Saturday, so Sunday was my last chance. The lumber yard is closed Sundays, so we went to Lowes to peruse the fencing materials (super disappointing). I did however get one potted plant marked 1/2 off (a pink heather plant) new garden clippers that promise to stay sharp 5x's longer, a spading fork (i broke both pitch forks on the rocks in the yard already) 1 cu ft bag of compost, and some bright colored string for marking out fence levels and such. We made a trip to the new Winco (grocery store like Costco and Walmart in one) and stopped at the Tacos Tumbras to grab some tacos (real tacos, not american tacos). The last stop was the NW seed & pet for the annual seed purchases, a mix of flowers and food stuffs. I also noticed the price for bagged compost was much better here (of course it was) so I'll come back for a bunch more when we plant the vegetable plot. We still have to wait 5 weeks to plant seeds outside so maybe I can get some started inside this year.

After we returned home I was determined to get some stuff done outside because it was so nice and still so light (~4:30pm). I cut down a 10 section of our pointless wire fencing (it doesn't keep anything in or out of the yard) and made a 3' diameter compost bin. I moved the fritillary to the front yard and divided it in 2 sections in front of the clematis to hide the ugly parts and shade the roots. We also planted the heather, some purple coneflower plants I got as Costco a while back, and moved the current bushes from the back to the front.

Of course after all this, it was 7pm when I got back inside to finish dinner. I chopped up onions, carrots, potatoes and celery and sauteed the onions and celery before adding the rest of the vegetables to a big pot on the stove. After skimming the fat off the top of the crock pot and removing the bay leaf, I added the broth contents to the stove pot along with 1 can of minced tomatoes. I let this simmer for 20ish minutes to cook the carrots and potatoes. While the vegetables were cooking I scraped off the meat from the neck bones. Uh, don't do this. It's a pain in the but and the meat is mostly fatty and not worth it. IN the future I'll probably pick up some shoulder chops at the same time and chop and throw those in with the veggies to cook (and just toss the neck bones meat and all when you're done with them). After adding some salt and pepper, it was done! Because the bones simmered so long all the good collagen stuff came out and thickened the stew and gave it that buttery mouth feel.

It really was easy and I even got some more work done in the yard at the same time.

March 31, 2009

Spring Cometh...almost

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , No comments
I did yard work 2 weekends in a row. Both times it rained. This Sunday it started snowing again. Just little bits, but after spending several hours in the rain digging dirt, moving rocks and transplanting bulbs, I wasn't going back out in the snow. So I didn't get the compost cage built yet but I have a big plastic bag full of yard waste just waiting to be composted. Last weekend I decided the grape arbors had to go. They were both falling down and really the vines were just out of control. Using only a small pair of clippers and a 2.5 lb sledge hammer (I found it faster than the hammer, which would have sufficed) I reduced everything to a pile of decrepit lattice and a separate pile of grape vine branches. I left the stumps in the ground because I don't want to completely remove the grapes, just redirect them. Hopefully the root system will use its energy to send up new suckers that I can train and control.

After spending some time in the back yard dismantling the grape arbor I realized that the roaming neighborhood dogs spend plenty of quality time in our yard over the winter. I don't remember it being as bad last year, but there was a lot of decomposing dog poo left when the snow melted. I realized that in order to keep our vegetable garden safe and "clean" the fence needs to go up now.

I've been putting off the fence project. 'Cause fences are big, and hard (well digging the holes in our rocky soil is hard) and procrastination is easy. But the fence is important and will allow us to use the back yard and grow things other than dead grass. I have plans. Plans that involve a lot of digging. Step 1: Build fence. Step 2: Plant Vegetable Garden.

February 19, 2009

We Have Laundry

Thursday, February 19, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , , No comments
It took a while – over a year – but we can now do laundry in the house. I wanted everything to be in place before I bought a washer and dryer. Electrical, plumbing and venting all needed to be altered to install a working and safe laundry area. Hiring a plumber to re-do the drains was the biggest expense. It actually cost more than the washer and dryer, but after two days we have a new stand pipe with a p-trap to replace the old drum trap and a new drain extension off an existing 4” vertical drain for the upstairs bathroom. It was all the little expenses that added up to be not so little that surprised me though. $30 of stuff to vent the dryer, $50 to wire the dryer outlet, another $30 to wire the washer outlet plus new water shutoffs, and no-burst washer hoses and it was about $200 just to connect everything.

I decided to vent the dryer through a window – temporarily. The pane was already broken and it’s right above the dryer. Eventually I want to vent through the foundation wall and maybe replace the windows above the dryer since only one has hinges and can open. ( I could add hinges to the other one maybe, but 30” in-swinging casement windows in the basement seem like a hazard since they are all open at about face level – 5’.)

To install the new outlets – one for the washer and one for the dryer – I decided to run the wires through the ceiling instead of running 30’ of conduit and competing with the water supply lines for space. This meant that I had to drill a hole through each joist and pull the 12 and 10 gauge wire across the room 1 foot above my head. It took a little effort and a little help and with the additional help of the reciprocating saw we got the wires down the wall and to the new outlet locations. The lathe and plaster were already pretty damaged on that wall anyway so I’m okay with the mess I made of it. Someday I’ll take out that section and put up some nice smooth drywall. Someday…after the electrical in the rest of the house is replaced, after the water supply lines are replaced…you know, someday.

But for now I can wash the sheets, and blankets, and jeans, and t-shirts and delicates without trudging down the street and procrastinating for 6+ weeks. I’ll probably still procrastinate but at least when I get desperate I can do a load of socks and underwear.

No, No, Nanette opens tomorrow and we’ll run for 5 weekends but after that I’m taking a break - I think. I want to , but I want to do a lot of things. If I decide to stay at home for a while, I want to start getting seeds for the side of the house and the vegetable garden, pick out a rose and scrape/repaint a trellis to grow it on. I want to start work on a patio for the back yard and start the fence. Before you know it the snow will be gone and it will be spring and we can start taking real walks with Yoshi and spending time outside. Yup, I’m done with winter.

January 28, 2009

Last one down...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 Posted by Ryan , No comments
Why is it that when I find a magazine I like it closes. First Budget Living, then Blueprint, and now Domino. So what happens now. When Budget Living closed we all just forfeited our subscriptions since it was an independent magazine. Martha gave us issues of Martha Stewart Living for the remainder of Blueprint subscriptions (and I'm getting Southern Accents? in lieu of Cottage Living). Conde Nast is a big publisher and no doubt we'll get something, but Domino was its only shelter mag (unless you count Architectural Digest which is in a totally different class).

At least there's still Sunset.

Katie, I'm sorry I keep getting you gift subscriptions to magazines mere issues before they close. I should have know this was happening when the rumors started flying.

January 23, 2009

Paying to get it done

Friday, January 23, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , , 1 comment
So…it snowed a lot this last month (90+ inches), I finished the one show, Paul opened another, and I started rehearsals for a third. Oh, and I hired someone for the first time to do work on the house. After the last trip to the laundry mat with the 10 loads of laundry I realized that I wasn’t making any progress on getting us our own laundry set up. It’s been over a year and I just don’t have the time (and I’m not making the time to do it either). I asked around for recommendations, called a plumber and just had him do it. Actually, I looked at the estimate and said, “That’s a lot of money, how much of that could I do myself?” I decided to have the plumber just do the drains (which involved things like busting up concrete and cutting out sections of 80+ year old cast iron pipe – I didn’t want to mess that up) and I could do the water supply myself and install the sink.

It was still a lot of money to get the drains done by the plumber. I keep having this fantasy that when I get the bill it will be lower than the estimate because they got it done so fast. Right. I bit the bullet and finally ordered a washer and dryer and before they’re delivered I have to
1) replace the water shutoffs for the washer and move them 24” to the right.
2) redo 110v outlet for the washer (currently it has exposed romex and is near the ceiling).
3) move the 220v outlet from behind the refrigerator to behind the dryer.
4) install dryer vent in wall.
Later I still need to install my $3 laundry sink w/no legs and at the minimum make sure water from the super old laundry shut offs goes into the sink and not on the floor (they’re several inches past the edge of the sink location.)

The dryer outlet is where the red star is and the washer hookups are at the blue star. I'm sorry but I can't have the washer on one side of the basement and the dryer on the other; that isn't right. The square under the blue star? That's a 18" cube of concrete just hanging out in the basement. The new utility sink will go there using the washer water supply above, and the washer will use the water supply from the old sink under the windows.

I took pictures while I tore down and busted up the old concrete sink that I’ll post later. I had this crazy idea that I’d be able to put the sink in the backyard until I figured out what to do with it. After I got it down from the stand, I couldn’t move it 3 feet. Now I have three cardboard boxes full of busted concrete in the basement waiting for incremental disposal in my trash can.

Last weekend my dad helped me install a deadbolt in the basement door for the plumbers to gain access when we weren’t home (without giving them access to the whole house) and the hardest part of the whole thing is always getting everything lined up exactly. Because if it isn’t you can’t get both screws screwed in and it is so frustrating! Trying to put it together, take it apart, find a flashlight, get one lined up but loosen it to get the other in, now you can’t get the first screw to thread – and over and over until finally, magically it works and 10 seconds later your deadbolt is installed. It isn’t like I have any sense of false security with deadbolts since we have 100+ panes of glass in the house. Really I just needed key access from the outside and a deadbolt is easier than replacing the original mortise knob/lockset. Or I could start carrying around skeleton keys.